Tony Teravainen, USN (Ret.)
CEO & Co-Founder
A vocal advocate for the public support of our military community, Mr. Teravainen assumed his position as President and CEO in February 2014 after serving as a board chairman, director and volunteer since 2009.
In this role, Tony oversees the positioning of STEP as a successful, trusted and viable partner to our young military families and transitioning veterans. Under his guidance, STEP was created in Southern California, and grown to also serve Washington State, and has assisted more than 100,000 military and veteran family members, including 5,700 families in financial crisis move to self-sufficiency through his financial counseling intervention and $2.2 million in grants – with a 90% effectiveness rate.
Being the son of a career Air Force father, Tony knows firsthand the hardships young military families endure. Additionally, a medical condition abruptly ended his career as a U.S. Navy submariner, thrusting him into a difficult transition to civilian life.
Mr. Teravainen left his consulting position at Booz Allen Hamilton to become STEP’s full-time CEO, where for five years he consulted on strategy and process improvement. Prior to that, he spent seven years running his portfolio of small businesses, 12 years in manufacturing leadership at Sony Electronics, Inc., and eight years in the operations, repair and project management areas of the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Nuclear Power Program.
In addition to his representing Disabled Veterans as a Commissioner on San Diego’s Citizens Equal Opportunity Commission, he serves on the San Diego North Business Chamber Economic Development & Advocacy Advisory Council and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Defense, Veteran and Military Committee. His past leadership positions include Chairman of San Diego County’s Military & Veteran Advisory Council and San Diego Coast Guard City Committee, as well as leadership positions with San Diego Military Family Collaborative.
Mr. Teravainen holds undergraduate degrees in business management and nuclear engineering, a master’s degree in Executive Leadership from The University of San Diego and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Liberty University.
Tony has received multiple awards and recognition for his efforts to serve his community, including San Diego’s 2020 Veteran of the Year, Top 500 Influential People, Top 50 COVID Leaders, and 2018 Top Veteran Nonprofit CEO for San Diego County. He holds professional licenses in Six Sigma, Project Management and Change Management, holds one U.S. patent, is a TEDx speaker and frequent panelist discussing military and veteran policies and issues.
Married to Jaclyn with two daughters and a son, Tony resides in the Highland Valley area of San Diego County where he enjoys ranching his livestock and tending to his orchards.
Kathi admires the men and women who make American freedoms possible through their sacrifice on behalf of our nation. She brings her passion for helping people use their own skills and knowledge to STEP and the heroes STEP serves. Kathi loves meeting new people who want to improve their lives starting with their financial situation. When not at work, Kathi enjoys being with her family, including her two young children, traveling within the United States and reading audiobooks.
Barbara Fiorina is the Development Manager with Support the Enlisted Project. Barbara has more than twenty-five years of experience working for some of the most well-known nonprofits in the country, including American Red Cross, Meals on Wheels San Diego County, ECOLIFE Conservation, Epilepsy Society and Visting Nurses. Her core strength lies in building trust and loyal relationships with donors, corporate partners, volunteers, and staff. She has a sense of humor, enthusiastic attitude and is willing to take initiative and motivate others to the achieve a goal. Barbara has spent most of her career in San Diego but grew up in Illinois. "It is a pleasure and honor to join the team at STEP as we help build self-sufficiency for enlisted personnel and their families."
Warehouse Supervisor/Volunteer Coordinator
Eglantina is a recent 24-year Navy Veteran, who served as Chief Hull Technician in the enlisted ranks. She is single mother who is well versed in the many unforeseen struggles of young military families. Her desire is to continue to assist fellow military families. She has Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management, and an M.S.M. In her free time you can find her modifying her home, backyard, garden, or training/fostering with her rescue partners saving pitbulls from high kill shelters and Mexico.
Selya joined the STEP family in 2021 and is honored to partake in STEP’s mission to help military families like herself. As a military daughter, she understands and knows the financial hardships our young families endure. She is proud to be part of an organization that will always do what is right, honor patriotism and service our country, build relationships, respect others, and continue delivering results with excellence. During her free time, she enjoys being with her friends and family, working out, and binge watching Netflix.
Kristen DeArmond joined STEP in September 2022 as the Development Coordinator. She is a Navy spouse, mother of three, and excited to share her passion of supporting military and veteran families. The family moved to California in 2022 and enjoy meeting new military families, going to the beach, and exploring new things to do in California. Kristen has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and completed her M.B.A. in the Spring of 2022. She is excited to share the vision and mission of STEP to grow and continue to support more military and veteran families.
Director of Development
Linda Disney joined STEP because of its mission to help junior enlisted military families and transitioning veterans in time of financial crisis. As a military spouse, she has witnessed the challenges they face, especially in Washington state where the cost of living is so high. She is committed to raising awareness and collaborating with others to find solutions to this challenge.
For many years, Linda has worked with organizations to meet the needs of underserved populations. She was the executive director of the Idaho Occupational Therapy Association where she helped increase access to service for low-income individuals in rural communities and worked as an economic development professional with the Boise Economic Development Council and Travel Tacoma addressing rural to urban growth issues. Linda is an active Rotary and Optimist Club member, and a volunteer leader with Optimist International.
Linda has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in journalism. In addition to her passion for volunteering, she loves dogs, and travel. She grew up in the St. Louis area and for 23 years has called the Pacific Northwest home.
Director of Philanthropy
Lisa Culver has made a career as a nonprofit leader serving at the executive level across multiple sectors at some of the most prestigious foundations and organization in the San Diego community for the past 25 years. Prior to joining STEP, Lisa was with Workshops for Warriors where she served as Chief Development Officer. She has also worked as the Foundation Administrator for the Cushman Foundation and held executive level positions at the San Diego History Center Museum, Project Wildlife, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. In her personal time, Lisa loves spending time with her two sports minded teenage sons, traveling with friends and is an avid cyclist.
Rena is a US Navy Veteran, and came to San Diego in Spring 2019 as a military spouse of a US Navy service member. As both a veteran and a spouse, Rena has experience and knowledge of the challenges of the military lifestyle, and how that impacts a family financially. Rena uses her experience, knowledge and resources to assist service members and their families identify and achieve financial goals. Rena holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Hawaii Pacific University and a Master of Social Work from THE Ohio State University.
Tracy Owens, USN (Ret.)
As a 30-year Navy Veteran, who served in both the enlisted and officer ranks, Tracy understands and has seen the struggles young military families face first hand. That is why she is so passionate about this organization. Tracy has been in the San Diego area since 2008 and enjoys going to the beach, traveling and spending time with her family and friends.
Tara Lange is the development associate for STEP. As a Navy Spouse and mother of two, Tara has a great deal of insight and passion for STEP's mission. She has obtained a Master's degree in counseling through Regent University in Virginia and a Bachelor's in Psychology through Georgia State University. Her family arrived in San Diego in 2018 and enjoy sight seeing, hiking, theme parks, and getting to know other military families
Programs Coordinator (Washington)
Kia is a true patriot and US Army Veteran. As an Army brat, Kia grew up immersed in the military lifestyle and always knew that she wanted to serve her country. And serve she did - she not only served in the Army, but she is also married to an active-duty soldier and has siblings that are currently serving in the armed forces as well.
Kia’s dedication to the military doesn't stop there - with nearly a decade of volunteer work in communities across the nation, Kia has demonstrated her commitment to service time and time again. She is passionate about serving our service members and their families, and she has seen the unique challenges our families face like frequent PCS moves and deployments. Kia joined our team because she is passionate about our mission and the opportunity to continue her service by supporting those who serve.
In addition to her military background, Kia holds a bachelor's degree in Political Economy and Political Science from Evergreen State University. In her free time, Kia enjoys spending time with her husband, Ben, and their puppy, Romeo.
Sara Davis joined STEP in 2022 as the Development Associate. As a long-time Navy spouse with numerous moves all along the East Coast and a cross-country move to San Diego in 2018, she understands the difficulties facing our military families firsthand. Sara holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Eureka College (college home of Former President Ronald Reagan). She is passionate about helping military families navigate the challenges of military life, both at work and in her spare time. When she’s not at work, she can be found volunteering at her children’s school or for their various clubs and activities, riding roller coasters at various theme parks, or having movie nights at home.